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Drawing of 6 characters from comic book coproduced with young people. ;

The So-Called Love: A Youth Perspective

Dr Clare Coultas

Lecturer in Social Justice, School of Education, Communication & Society

12 May 2023

The So-Called Love: A Youth Perspective is a comic that was co-developed with young people in Tanzania and the UK through a partnership between Dr Clare Coultas (King's College London) and the youth groups Tamasha (in Tanzania) and the Lewisham Young Mayors Programme (in London, UK). It builds on Clare's research on Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Tanzania.

The comic builds on Clare’s research on Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Tanzania, which showed that many young Tanzanians view the ‘good relationships’ that are promoted as a ‘choice’ in this education, as being ‘not for us’, instead seeing them as a Western thing. These so-called ‘good relationships’, commonly framed as monogamous and based on love, trust, open communication, and equality, were not only described as difficult to achieve in contexts of widespread poverty and high rates of HIV, but were felt to be a risk to a person’s health. 

These education programmes hope to inspire young people to live healthier sexual lives, however this research highlights how they are instead contributing to young Tanzanians’ feelings of exclusion and low self-esteem. By framing relationships in terms of ‘goodness’, people who feel excluded from them are unintentionally framed as ‘bad’. Furthermore, this failure to recognise the realities of young Tanzanians’ lives, and how poverty limits people’s choices, is seen to contribute to young people disengaging from these services aimed at supporting them.

The comic is aimed at opening-up space for discussing these issues. It was developed through a series of online workshops with young people from Tamasha (in Tanzania) and the Lewisham Young Mayors Programme (in London, UK), and designed by the Kenyan artist Victor Ndula, and is accessible in both English and Swahili. 

The comic works to tackle feelings of exclusion by highlighting how ‘choices’ and this idea of ‘good relationships’ are difficult for people to achieve the world over, and that struggling with this does not make young Tanzanians different or ‘bad’. It also discusses some of the other misconceptions that each group holds about the Other. 

The comic is currently being used in consultations with young people across Europe and sub-Saharan Africa to explore how else we might talk about relationships in education programmes and health campaigns if we don’t focus on ‘choices’ and ‘goodness’.

Read the comic in English

Read the comic in Swahili

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Clare  Coultas

Clare Coultas

Lecturer in Social Justice

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